Opps thats probably done it, but so far this year our running workshops have fallen on sunny days. Our latest offering was our Hills, Speed and Endurance workshop based in Hope, Peak District and uses Lose Hill and the Great Ridge. For those of you who know, this area it is a great place for running and for those who have not been then make the effort – it is a great place for running.
So what happens? We start with tea, coffee, croissants, granola bars, bananas and a chat about what we going to be doing over the next few hours and what everyone wants from the course and out to do some running. Firstly I captured everyones running style in the sports field and we had a look at these on the big screen and discussed what is good running technique, why does it matter, how can you change and how are you going to benefit. We had a look at some running techniques that I feel are good to aspire to and then back out on the field for some drills.
Always good fun as we try to exaggerate the good movement patterns we are going to try and make our ‘normal’ movement patterns. So this involves; lifting our knees a bit higher, trying to kick our butts a bit harder, trying to turn our legs over a bit faster, trying to push the ground away a bit harder – our running suddenly feels a ‘bit harder’.
What are we trying to do with these drills? We are trying to get some ‘free speed’, stretch out our bodies a bit more to make use of all the potential energy we can store in our muscles, ligaments and tendons. If we can put a bit more stretch through those structures during the stance phase we increase our speed through the swing phase without having to work that much harder. Well that is the theory but everything has to come together to make it work. Hence the feeling of working harder in the short term.
Back in for a drink, snack, etc and the packed up for the hill run. Lose Hill is a great looking hill; it invites you to follow the ridge to the final summit push up the technical path to the top. Accelerate athletes know it and have a love/hate relationship with it (thanks to @RunStu). Edale Road to the summit reps – current record 11.55, anyone fancy a go? Today we were taking it easy and climbing in sections to make use of the variety of terrain we were going to come across.
So to the first section, a relatively steep section where we could put into practice our new found skills of getting a bit more out of our muscles to help us on our way. The aim being to tidy up arm swing, no point dropping hands down, flexing through ankles and getting some stretch through the calf muscles / Achilles tendons to provide some spring back. Again no point in having to put energy into propulsion if we can get some ‘free’ energy – just have to know how.
Everyone has a run and I video them. We can then have a look and try to make some instant changes and off they go again. I am to try to get people to feel what is good technique. It often does not feel like good technique because you are doing something different out of your comfort zone, so it is good to have the instant feedback from the video to confirm what you are doing is correct.
Then off to the super steep bit. Often I find people still wanting to over stride so if we make the hill very steep you have to stop the overstride – also it is a bit of fun trying to run up very steep hills. One thing it does do is make you hone your technique as there is very little room for error.
Doesn’t Lose Hill look good up there?
So onto the next section. A flatter section half way up – Stu Bond and Stu Walker would have taken about 6 mins to get this far we have taken an hour.
So still uphill but with an easier gradient, we can therefore try and stretch the legs out a bit, concentrate again on arm swing, but pushing the ground away a bit harder and lifting the heels up through the swing phase. This means we are going to be using two large muscles groups often forgotten about when hill climbing; our hamstrings and gluteus maximus. Often hill climbing using poor technique will involve leaning forward and using the hip flexors as the main muscles. These small muscles are situated in front of our centre of mass and it is like trying to pull over selves up the hill. So if we to be more efficient and effective hill climbers we need to be a bit upright and use the big muscles behind us to push ourselves up the hill.
So then it gets technical onto the top. This time we discussed tactics at the bottom of the climb and everyone went off at their own pace. Run with good form, do not worry about speed, stop and recompose if required. Pitter patter feet, compact arm swing, use the steps and meet at the top.
Well worth the climb, what a view. People lying in the sun, a fresh breeze, take on board some drinks and then off to Back Tor. Might as well make the most of the weather and extend our run a bit. Down the technical steep bit of Back Tor, again with some video footage to look at later. Might as well keep going – everyone was feeling good. Hollins Cross was soon upon us. From here back along the traversing path to Lose Hill. Not just running but introducing some of the drills, high knees, butt kicks, step overs, using cadence like gears on your bike – shorter and faster stride on the uphill and open it up a bit on the downhill. Starting to feel your body responding to the terrain, becoming more aware of your centre of mass and where it is space. Not leaning forward and crashing down onto the foot at contact but staying upright and feeling the spring back of legs through the swing phase as we have preloaded the muscles during the stance phase. Oh we are all going to ache a bit tomorrow.
So back to Hope Sports club and into the shade and cool drinks. Debrief over the hill videos and make sure everyone has a plan to go away with. Then it is up to them to try and introduce what we have learnt. Some are going to find it easy, some not so. Everyone will respond differently but even if you make a 10% change to your technique then that is 10% of more free speed you didn’t have that morning when you arrived.
Now the hard work begins and the rain has come down, must mean workshop over.
Next day for the sun to shine is Saturday 12th July – do you want to learn about free speed in the sunshine?